least. Even the expected fearful rigours of the long night ahead proved to be no more than minor physical inconveniences.

By the time the Sirdar had brought them back to Navarone and as close in to the rocky shores as was prudent, the sky had become darkly overcast, rain was falling and a swell was beginning to blow up from the south-west so that it was little wonder to either Mallory or Miller that by the time they had paddled their dinghy within striking distance of the shore, they were in a very damp and miserable condition indeed: and it was even less wonder that by the time they had reached the boulder-strewn beach itself, they were soaked to the skin, for a breaking wave flung their dinghy against a sloping shelf of rock, overturning their rubber craft and precipitating them both into the sea. But this was of little enough account in itself: their Schmeisser machine-pistols, their radio, their torches were securely wrapped in waterproof bags and all of those were safely salvaged. All in all, Mallory reflected, an almost perfect three-point landing compared to the last time they had come to Navarone by boat, when their Greek caique, caught in the teeth of a giant storm, had been battered to pieces against the jaggedly vertical ? and supposedly unclimbable ? South Cliff of Navarone.

Slipping, stumbling and with suitably sulphuric comments, they made their way over the wet shingle and massively rounded boulders until their way was barred by a steeply-angled slope that soared up into the near- darkness above. Mallory unwrapped a pencil torch and began to quarter the face of the slope with its narrow, concentrated beam. Miller touched him on the arm.

Taking a bit of a chance, aren't we? With that thing, I mean?'

'No chance,' Mallory said. 'There won't be a soldier left on guard on the coasts tonight. They'll all fighting the fires in the town. Besides, who is left for them to guard against? We are the birds and the birds, duty done, have flown. Only a madman would come back to the island again.' 'I know what we are,' Miller said with feeling.

'You don't have to tell me.'

Mallory smiled to himself in the darkness and I Continued his search. Within a minute he had located,what he had been hoping to find — an angled gully in the slope. He and Miller scrambled up the shale and rock-strewn bed of the gully as fast as the treacherous footing and their encumbrances would permit: within teen minutes they had reached the plateau above and used to take their breath. Miller reached inside the depths of his tunic, a discreet movement that was at once followed by a discreet gurgling. 'What are you doing?' Mallory enquired. 'I thought I heard my teeth chattering. What's all this 'urgent 3 repeat urgent 3' business in the message, then?'

'I've never seen it before. But I know what it means. Some people, somewhere, are about to die.' 'I'll tell you two for a start. And what if Andrea won't come? He's not a member of our armed forces. He doesn't have to come. And he said he was getting married right away.'

Mallory said with certainty: 'He'll come.' 'What makes you so sure?'

'Because Andrea is the one completely responsible man I've ever met. He has two great responsibilities — one to others, one to himself. That's why he came back to Navarone — because he knew the people needed him. and that's why he'll leave Navarone when he sees this 'urgent 3' signal, because he'll know that someone, in some other place, needs him even more.'

Miller retrieved the brandy bottle from Mallory and thrust it securely inside his tunic again. 'Well, I can tell you this. The future Mrs Andrea Stavros isn't going to be very happy about it.'

'Neither is Andrea Stavros and I'm not looking forward to telling him,' Mallory said candidly. He peered at his luminous watch and swung to his feet. 'Mandrakos in half an hour.'

In precisely thirty minutes, their Schmeissers removed from their waterproof bags and now shoulder-slung at hip level, Mallory and Miller moved swiftly but very quietly from shadow to shadow through the plantations of carob trees on the outskirts of the village of Mandrakos. Suddenly, from directly ahead, they heard the unmistakable clink of glasses and bottlenecks.

For the two men a potentially dangerous situation such as this was so routine as not even to warrant a glance at each other. They dropped silently to their hands and knees and crawled forward, Miller sniffing the air appreciatively as they advanced: the Greek resinous spirit ouzo has an extraordinary ability to permeate the atmosphere for a considerable distance around it Mallory and Miller reached the edge of a clump of bushes, sank prone and looked ahead.

From their richly-befrogged waistcoats, cummerbunds and fancy headgear, the two characters propped against the bole of a plane tree in the clearing ahead were obviously men of the island: from the rifles across their knees, their role appeared to be that of guards of some kind: from the almost vertical angle at which they had to tip the ouzo bottle to get at what little was left of its contents, it was equally apparent that they weren't taking their duties too seriously, nor had been for some considerable time past.

Mallory and Miller withdrew somewhat less stealthily than they had advanced, rose and glanced at each other. Suitable comment seemed lacking. Mallory shrugged and moved on, circling around to his right. Twice more, as they moved swiftly into the centre of Mandrakos, flitting from the shadow of carob grove to carob grove, from the shadow of plane tree to plane tree, from the shadow of house to house, they came upon but easily avoided other ostensible sentries, all busy interpreting their duties in a very liberal fashion. Miller pulled Mallory into a doorway.

'Our friends back there,' he said. 'What were they celebrating?'

'Wouldn't you? Celebrate, I mean. Navarone is useless to the Germans now. A week from now and they'll all be gone.'

'All right. So why are they keeping a watch?' Miller nodded to a small, whitewashed Greek Orthodox church standing in the centre of the village square. From inside came a far from subdued murmur of voices. Also from inside came a great deal of light escaping through very imperfectly blacked-out windows. 'Could it be anything to do with that?'

Mallory said: 'Well, there's one sure way to find out.'

They moved quietly on, taking advantage of all available cover and shadow until they came to a still deeper shadow caused by two flying buttresses supporting the wall of the ancient church. Between the buttresses was one of the few more successfully blacked-out windows with only a tiny chink of light showing along the bottom edge. Both men stooped and peered through the narrow aperture.

The church appeared even more ancient inside than on the outside. The high unpainted wooden benches, adze-cut oak from centuries long gone, had been blackened and smoothed by untold generations of churchgoers, the wood itself cracked and splintered by the ravages of time: the whitewashed walls looked as if they required buttresses within as well as without, crumbling to an extinction that could not now be long delayed: the roof appeared to be in imminent danger of falling in at any moment.

The now even louder hum of sound came from islanders of almost every age and sex, many in ceremonial dress, who occupied nearly every available seat in the church: the light came from literally hundreds of guttering candles, many of them ancient and twisted and ornamented and evidently called out for this special occasion, that lined the walls, the central aisle and the altar: by the altar itself, a priest, a bearded patriarch in Greek Orthodox robes, waited impassively.

Mallory and Miller looked interrogatively at each other and were on the point of standing upright when a very deep and very quiet voice spoke behind them.

'Hands behind the necks,' it said pleasantly. 'And straighten very slowly. I have a Schmeisser machine-pistol in my hands.'

Slowly and carefully, just as the voice asked, Mallory and Miller did as they were told. 'Turn round. Carefully, now.' So they turned round, carefully. Miller looked at the massive dark figure who indeed had, as he'd claimed, a machine-pistol in his hands, and said irritably: 'Do you mind? Point that damned thing somewhere else.' The dark figure gave a startled exclamation, lowered the gun to his side and bent forward, the dark, craggy, lined face expressing no more than a passing flicker of surprise. Andrea Stavros didn't go in very much for registering unnecessary emotional displays and the recovery of his habitual composure was instantaneous.

'The German uniforms,' he explained apologetically. 'They had me fooled.'

'You could have fooled me, too,' Miller said. He looked incredulously at Andrea's clothes, at the unbelievably baggy black trousers, the black jackboots, the intricately ornamented black waistcoat and violently purple cummerbund, shuddered and closed his eyes in pain. 'Been visiting the Mandrakes pawn shop?'

The ceremonial dress of my ancestors,' Andrea laid mildly. 'You two fall overboard?'

'Not intentionally,' Mallory said. 'We came back to see you.'

'You could have chosen a more convenient time.' He hesitated, glanced at a small lighted building across the

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